Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part Two

cant we be friends

Cartoon by Paco

If you have not done so, please read the previous post on this subject here.

After posting Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend Part One, I read a perfect illustration of what I was talking about in this post.

Writing for A Clear Lens — an Evangelical apologetics blog — Nate Sala wrote:

A lot of people in the Church seem to be asking the same question more and more these days: How do I talk to people about my faith in Christ? This is an excellent question to ask! Particularly considering the current climate of tribalism, whataboutism, and the outrage culture, how are Christians supposed to navigate often difficult conversations in order to get to the Gospel in the 21st century?

I’ve spent the last nine years formulating an effective method of communicating why Christianity is true; and a lot of this has been through trial and error. And I do mean, a lot of error! But now I see that the difficulty in sharing our faith with folks is not rooted in whatever is happening in the news or academia or political correctness or even atheist websites. I am convinced that the difficulty in sharing our faith stems from our having forgotten how to be in relationship with each other.

….

We need to stop making speeches and start making friends. Evangelism and apologetics is only as effective as the authentic relationship you have with folks. Let speeches be for political venues or TED Talks or even the pulpit. But for us, when we want to communicate to people about our faith, we need to begin with real relationship. That means asking questions to get to know people. In other words, treat your interactions with folks like you would a first date.

We all know (at least I hope we all do) the dos and donts of dating. Don’t dominate the conversation with long-winded speeches about yourself or your views. If you do that there won’t be a second date! Instead ask questions about your date in order to discover who they are and show them that you are genuinely interested in them. And then just listen carefully to what they say. This is no different when it comes to evangelistic or apologetic conversations. Don’t begin with an agenda where three steps later you’re asking someone to say the sinner’s prayer with you. Just start off by getting to know the person you’re talking to. Treat your interactions like a first date with an important person. And, when the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, ask them about their faith. Let me say that again: When the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, then ask them about their faith. As a matter of fact, J Warner Wallace has a great question you can ask them: What do you think happens after we die?

Friends, if you try to treat people like a checkmark on your agenda, you will come across as an inauthentic used-car salesman. Instead, if you treat your conversations like a first date with an important person, you will find the path to evangelism and apologetics so much easier!

Read carefully what Sala says: friendship is a tool to be used in evangelizing non-Christians. In other words, it’s friendship based on deception, not honesty. Imagine if Evangelical zealots were honest and said, look I want to be your friend, but I only want to do so because I see you as a hell-bound, sin-laden, enemy of the Evangelical God who is headed for hell unless you buy what I am selling. Why, I suspect most people would say fuck off. Few of us want friends who can’t love and accept us as we are, where we are. And don’t tell me Evangelicals love everyone, loving them so much that they just have to tell them the truth — JESUS SAVES! Who wants friends who see them as defective in some way; friends who view them as broken; friends who see them as purposeless and empty; friends who cannot and will not love them as is, without conditions?

Evangelicals feign friendship so they can evangelize. True friends, on the other hand, enjoy your company and accept that differences are what make each of us special. Evangelicals look to convert, adding more minds to the Borg collective. Conformity, not diversity is the goal. Doubt that this is so? Ask your new Evangelical “friend” if, after you get saved, you can continue having gay sex and continue working for Planned Parenthood. Ask him or her if you and your significant other can have your same-sex wedding at their church.  Ask if you, as a gay man, can teach Sunday school or work in the nursery. Absurd, right?

I have no doubt Sala and other Evangelicals will object to my characterizations of their intent. However, I spent a lifetime in Evangelicalism. I know how Evangelicals operate. I know what lurks behind their “friendliness.”  I know that they use friendship as a means to an end, much like foreplay before sexual intercourse. Evangelicals fondle and caress your emotions, hoping that you will spread your legs wide so they can penetrate you with their slick gospel presentations. No thanks.

For all I know, Nate Sala is a nice guy, as are many Evangelicals. I just wish they would all be honest about their intent when they lurk in the shadows hoping to befriend unwary “sinners.” While this might not generate as many club members, there will be no regrets come morning.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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31 Comments

  1. Charles

    I will never forget a story that I once read. It was written by an office worker who was a new employee at a firm. If you are anything like me, being a stranger to a new place is a little scary, and some kindness from a new coworker is often just the grease needed to make that new place feel more like home. Well, one of the other women working at this new firm was really friendly and began asking the new employee to go to work with her. They went out to lunch numerous times, and even shared evening shopping and other outside work experiences. Pretty soon, the new worker noticed that discussions on these outings were turning more and more toward religious matters. She did not mind that and appreciated her new friend’s enthusiasm for her Christian faith. The relationship deepened even more with time. Then finally, after many months of getting along just great, they went out to lunch again as usual. They sat down at their table, and the new employee got the classic come to Jesus speech over the blue plate special.

    At the end of the conversation, the new employee kindly and politely said that she was not interested in becoming a Christian. Her new friend looked a little disappointed and glum. which made the new worker feel a little bad—but hey—they were great friends and surely such a great friendship could withstand such a small and slightly negative thing.

    The next day at work, lunch time rolled around and the new worker asked her Christian friend if she would like to try out a new restaurant that had just opened a couple of blocks away from the office.

    Her friend said, “No. I cannot go to lunch with you today.”

    “Why not?”

    “Well, you see. I am a “true” Christian who attends a strong Christian fundamentalist church. I offered Jesus to you yesterday, and you turned him down. Therefore, I cannot be your friend anymore because you are a vile sinner, and our church requires strict social separation from sinners like you. I cannot go out with you to lunch, shopping, or for any other reason ever again. Of course, I can work with you here in the office, but only because I have to. Therefore, my future interaction with you here in the office will be only the bare minimum necessary to get both of our jobs done each day. There will be no talking at the water cooler, no sharing of pictures, and no small-talk-over-coffee kind of interactions at all. It is all strictly business from here on out.

    The new worker was devastated. She went home to her apartment that night and cried all night long because she lived in a new city far from her original home. She had thought that she had a good friend, and now that friend was gone. Life was hard in the new city until she finally found some reliable friends who were truly interested in being her friends.

    Later, from another coworker. the new employee learned that her old friend had not just rejected her for religious reasons—but she had done it on purpose with the intent to devastate her emotions. She had calculated that the devastation and loss of her friendship would make the new employee come crawling back to her in desperation for friendship and that she would accept Jesus as the payment she had to make to get back into her good graces. The new worker was then even more devastated—and angry!!! The last thing she was going to do was crawl back to a so-called “friend” who would treat her so badly and with such cruel manipulation.

    FEELINGS. WE ALL HAVE FEELINGS. WE DO NOT HAVE TO ACT UPON THEM—BUT WE FEEL.

    I have a special message here for Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. It is a feelings message. If one of you ever treats my daughter like this new worker was treated in a faraway city, my personal FEELINGS will be to drive to that city, personally find you, beat you to a bloody pulp, and ensure that you will spend the next 50 years eating your meals through a soda straw.

    Of course, I would not do that to you—but that is how I would feel. This is just one of the many reasons I do not generally like Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. They play cruel games with people. They talk about the love of Jesus—while demonstrating the exact opposite of that love in their dealing with people outside of their own religious circles. Shame on all of you for using friendship in such a cruel manner as the true story I presented above.

    Reply
    1. ObstacleChick

      That is quite a story! I would be upset to be on the receiving end of that situation.

      When I was growing up in fundamentalist evangelical church and school, we were warned not to become close with unbelievers so as not to tarnish our witness and so we wouldn’t be tempted to sin. It was OK to witness to the “lost”, but we weren’t supposed to be “unequally yoked”. I guess since church attendance is down, they have to up their game to try to bring in new members, huh?

      It still seems so fake to be “friends” with people in order to convert them. It feels slimy.

      Reply
    2. howitis

      Very sad, but not surprising…

      My husband and I had a similar thing happen to us, 20-some years ago, when we were newlyweds who had just relocated to a new city. The day we moved into our new place, a couple who lived across the street came over and introduced themselves to us. They were quite similar to us; young, relatively recent college grads, just starting out. A couple of weeks later, they invited us over to have pizza and watch movies. A few weeks after that, they invited us to their place for a cookout, where they introduced us to several other very nice people. They gave us a lot of advice on living in our new city. The wife of the couple gave me a lead on a temp job that eventually turned into a full-time one for me. We went camping with them, went out to dinners and brunch, we really thought we had found a couple who would be our first real, adult friends…until the day they invited us to attend church with them. Turns out they were Mormon. We very politely turned them down, explaining that we weren’t interested in attending their church. (or any church, for that matter, though we weren’t calling ourselves atheists at that point.)

      And just like that, our friendship was over. At the time we had made plans with them to go on another camping trip, but the day after we turned down church, they called to tell us they would not be going. Then the husband came over and asked that some tools my husband had borrowed be returned to him immediately. They stopped calling and coming by. We we walked by their house and waved, they turned away. Basically they “ghosted” us, as the kids today say. Overnight they went from being (we thought) close friends to being strangers. It was sad. It still makes me sad, in fact. We eventually found and made other friends. But to this day, I still miss that couple for some reason. We cared about them, we thought they cared about us. But apparently all they cared about was converting us to their religion. And once we told them no, they didn’t care anymore.

      Reply
    3. TLC

      Yep. Our office manager was the one who led me to the Lord. Before that happened, she had been very friendly, concerned, attentive, etc. When I went to church, I sat with her and her husband for the first few weeks.

      Once I was comfortable enough there to sit on my own, the attention was over. No more conversations at work or at church. I was just another item crossed off her list.

      Reply
  2. Rebecca

    I don’t agree with “friendship evangelism” either. I know I would be very hurt if I felt someone only wanted a friendship with me as a ministry, or to further their own agenda.

    On the other hand, though, it also seems to me that genuine and deep friendship is naturally going to involve the interchange of thoughts and ideas about life, spirituality, values, etc. So in that sense, I think as a committed Christian I can’t help, but share my faith in one way or another, all the more so if I think this might be a blessing or help to my friend. It’s part of who I am.

    The determining factor for me would be if the person was also open and interested in this kind of interchange of thoughts and ideas. I think it’s always a mistake to attempt to drag people where we’re at no matter what, and then even worse to drop the friendship because of a difference of opinion.

    Personally, I enjoy being friends with people who do not agree with all of my spiritual, social, and political views. I just find this more interesting and stimulating to my own growth and thinking. I think it’s a mark of maturity in relationships for people to be able to share and to discuss differences without becoming totally unglued.

    Even in terms of some of these political and social views, it’s more important for me in terms of friendship to understand why my friend has these views? Does it come from careful thought, good character, and compassion or not? Who the person is, for me, it more important than who they voted for in the last election or even whether they share my faith.

    I also think there are different types and kinds of friendships. My husband and I have recently joined a conservation group that focuses on stream restoration and restoring native habitats. I’m sure we’ll make some casual friends in this group around our interests without necessarily sharing all of the same political or spiritual views together.

    Reply
    1. ObstacleChick

      Rebecca, you seem like a very open and genuine person who respects different opinions and desires to converse with others. Sharing one’s faith or concepts of life is a natural part of conversation when you are developing a relationship with someone, and as you implied, it has to be an organic conversation where both parties are open to ideas. Differences are met with respect. The difference between you and a stereotypical evangelical is that you don’t have an agenda to turn someone to your beliefs – you want to share what works for you because you care about the other person, not because you see them as a fixer-upper project, a person who is tainted, a sinner, bound for eternity in hell. (Kind of like how I like to share with people my love for running, weightlifting, and obstacle course racing – some of my friends have started doing these things too, and others haven’t, and it’s all good). Many evangelicals see soul-winning as the goal – the “person” is not the focus, the friendship is not the purpose, the respect for another’s ideas is not the purpose, learning about someone else’s perspective or issues is not the purpose – winning them to Jesus come hell or high water is. Once the person is “won to Christ” then they are on the same team, the same tribe, then they can become true friends. At least, that was my experience with evangelicalism.

      I feel like I could have a conversation with you any day about our respective ideas, and it would probably be an interesting and fun exchange!

      Reply
      1. Rebecca

        Thank you, Obstacle Chick. I”m sure I would enjoy talking with you as well.

        Reply
    2. Pastor Disaster

      Hi Rebecca!

      Thanks for adding to the conversation. I’m hoping you can help me understand your experience a little better.

      You described yourself as a “committed Christian.” It’d help me if you would describe what that means to you? Perhaps, within the context of what makes one an “uncommitted Christian.”

      I’ve been a neck deep, fundamentalist evangelical (until recently) for 45+ years. In my experience, a “committed Christian” (as opposed to false converts or “lukewarm” Christians) believes the Bible is the “inspired, inerrant word of God”—is this your understanding?

      Also, committed Christians believe Jesus is the only way to “heaven” and that those who reject this idea are “lost.” As such, unless they repent and trust Christ they’ll spend eternity in a literal hell. This is opposed to “uncommitted” liberal Christians who are wishy-washy, noncommittal and “all inclusive.”

      So, what do you mean (especially as it relates to these two ideas) when you describe yourself as “committed”?

      Cheers! PD

      Reply
      1. Rebecca

        Hi, Pastor Disaster, your question is definitely thought provoking, for sure.

        First off, I have to say that I think only God can ultimately know a person’s heart, so to speak. That’s way beyond my pay grade.

        But, based in my own experience and just surface observation. I think many people have simply become culturally conditioned into the institutional church. It’s simply how they were reared, or they may attend for social reasons. Not much forethought, intention, or deeper thinking necessarily goes into this at all.

        I suppose this is true in both conservative and more progressive churches. It seems to me a committed Christian is someone who has given forethought, deeper thinking, or intention into their desire to follow Christ and to trust Him as Lord of their life. He makes a difference in their life that is observable.

        I personally don’t think commitment to Christ is necessarily connected to one specific view of the Bible. I feel that the Scripture is an authority for the faith and practice of the church, and should be taken quite seriously. I think it contains and reflects the word of God. But I don’t feel that it is “inerrant” or should always be interpreted in a literal sense. I feel that God’s revelation and our apprehension of it is progressive over time. Scripture IMO also contains the words of fallible humans, trying to get it right.

        I don’t feel that everyone apart from conscious faith is going to miss the Kingdom of God by any means. It does seem to me that all religions contain some element of truth, and that we can always find common ground. Obviously, not all faiths and philosophies can be equally true, though, as they can say contradictory things.

        I think Jesus Christ most fully shows us God. The incarnation, God with us, speaks deeply of the love of God. In a sense, Jesus is God’s final and most complete word to us.

        So, for instance, if I read something in the Scripture which seems to contradict the ethic of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to even care for and forgive our enemies, I’m inclined to think that this portion of the Bible is not fully reflecting the word of God, or I might think there is a possibility that I may be coming to a wrong interpretation not understanding the context, the culture of the time, the correct genre, etc. of this portion of the Scripture.

        This brings me to what I think is one of the greatest differences between fundamentalists, and more main line Christians. Generally, fundamentalist Christians seem to almost always subscribe to a certain view of the atonement which appears to suggest that Jesus had to die for God to be able to forgive. It’s more of a legal model. While all Christians believe that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,” how people throughout church history have actually conceptualized and described the mechanics of this differs. I think there is a greater diversity of thought in the main stream of the church.

        This explanation best speaks to me. https://brianzahnd.com/2014/04/dying-sins-work/

        Hope this helps.

        Reply
        1. Pastor Disaster

          Rebecca…

          Thank you for the time and thought you’ve put into your reply. And, yes, it definitely helps explain why you understand “the faith” the way you do (which, by the way, is quite different in nearly every point from the understanding to which I’m accustomed).

          If I’m hearing you rightly, it seems like you’re saying that the Bible is the main means of revealing Christ, Christianity and the afterlife while at the same time admitting that it’s an errant, fallible book just as limited and imperfect, in fact, as were the ancient people through whom it came.

          Have I gotten this right? If so, given these things, do you believe it’s reasonable and even perhaps justified for many to reject the Bible’s monumental claims about Christ, Christianity and the afterlife?

          Reply
          1. Rebecca

            Pastor Disaster, it would not be reasonable for me personally because my faith is not based in the infallibility of the Bible, but more in the apostolic witness to the resurrection of Christ which , of course, is contained in the Bible, but also predates the Scripture, and then comes down to us in the church through the witness of the early church fathers as well.

            But, attempting to project myself into the mind set of people that are fundamentalist Christians, I would say that this could certainly have a domino effect on a person’s faith, for sure. It’s as if, for them, their whole foundation has fallen to pieces.

            In a larger sense, though, how can anyone judge or know what actually motivates someone in one direction or the other. We can know for ourselves, but not with certainty relating to others.

            .

          2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            “apostolic witness to the resurrection of Christ which , of course, is contained in the Bible, but also predates the Scripture”

            I would love to see the evidence for this claim. Not really. I know it doesn’t exist. You are making a faith claim in an attempt to make your beliefs different from Evangelicals and their belief in inerrancy. The foundation of Christianity is the Bible. How could it be otherwise. Any claim that its witness predates the writing of the NT, is , at best wishful thinking. Remove the Bible from the historical timeline and what’s left? Nothing. Everything Christians know about Jesus is found in the Bible. As far as the early church fathers. The Biblical texts were already in circulation when they began writing. Again, no Bible, no Christianity.

            That’s all I’m going to say. Part of my decision to allow you to comment again was me not engaging you is discussion. I am happy to let others do so if they find it entertaining or helpful in some way, but I cannot do so.

  3. Matilda

    My anecdote is in similar vein. Fundy relative was delighted recently when house next door was rented by a young woman and her 4yo child. He formed a scenario in his head that as a single mum living on meagre Social Security payments, she’d be lonely, need lots of help and he’d be able to invite her to his church and she’d be delighted with the social contacts this formed. I was making toys for my g/kids for christmas and he nagged me to make one he could give to the child. (The old fundy precept of get to the family via the kids). On a windy day, her rubbish bin blew onto his lawn. I was visiting and saw the glee in his eyes that he could rush out, retrieve it and offer her bricks to weight it down…and so on…and so on! Turns out she’d moved here to start a new good job, she has a partner who was away on business and grandparents live nearby for childcare. My relative was quite ‘down’ when he found this out…he was like a hunter stalking prey. He was particularly miffed that the couple both work weekend shifts, so church would not be possible if, in the unlikliest of events, they wanted to attend! Sad thing is that if I’m honest, I used to believe and act in a similar vein when I was fundy and am ashamed to think of the false friendships I too was guilty of over the years.

    Reply
  4. Rebecca

    I understand, Bruce. I’m cool with it. Best to move away from the subject.

    Reply
  5. Pastor Disaster

    Hi Rebecca… apologies for my slow reply! I’ll be faster in future replies (if there are any future replies). Maybe there’s some history here to which I’m not privy, but I didn’t understand Bruce to be ending our dialogue. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Bruce, and I’ll gladly “move away from the subject” too.)

    Rebecca, Bruce summarized it well; he said very pointedly what I was tip-toeing around. Specifically, he said that the “faith” you’re describing sounds quite unreasonable (for anyone—even you). I think communicating my questions very specifically will help me understand…

    1) You excused yourself from my query by saying, “…my faith isn’t based in the infallibility of the bible.” But, I didn’t say that it was “based in the infallibility of the bible.” I said that the bible is the “…main means of revealing Christ, Christianity and the afterlife.” Are you saying that the bible is NOT the “main means” of revealing these things?

    2) If you’re claiming that the “main means” of understanding your faith is not the bible (as you seem to suggest), but rather this “apostolic witness” that predates the bible, will you kindly offer some evidence in support of this claim?

    Thanks for your patience!

    PD

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Becky and I have a complicated history. I have banned her several times over the past decade. This time around, I decided to let her comment, but I would not respond to them. If other people such as yourself want to engage her, feel free to do so. Her comments are fine, but I find it impossible to thoughtfully engage Becky in discussions. It’s just how it is. ? Her theology is a mix of this and that, ranging from Fundamentalist to Liberal. Trying to pin her down, as you will learn, is like nailing jello to a wall. Good luck with that. ?

      Reply
  6. GeoffT

    “2) If you’re claiming that the “main means” of understanding your faith is not the bible (as you seem to suggest), but rather this “apostolic witness” that predates the bible, will you kindly offer some evidence in support of this claim?”

    I know that you were directing this comment at Rebecca, but this wording is so ironic that I really couldn’t stop myself from replying. You ask for evidence of ‘apostolic witness’ (something I have no doubt has no supporting evidence but that’s another matter), implying that there’s actually evidence supporting the bible! What! There is nothing to support the bible other than….the bible. No original documents exist, there is almost no independent corroboration of even the existence of Jesus, and almost all the ‘big’ OT stories, from the creation to the flood to the exodus, can be shown never to have happened.

    Oh well….

    Reply
    1. Pastor Disaster

      Hello Geoff… thank you for that question!

      Apologies if I misspoke or wasn’t clear. (And no problem at all jumping into the discussion as far as I’m concerned.) That said, I think there is some confusion here as I’m confident you and I quite agree on this issue.

      Specifically, regarding your comment, I don’t see the irony. How does asking a claimant (in this case Rebecca) to supply evidence in support of her claim (in this case Rebecca’s “apostolic witness”) in any way imply that said evidence actually exists?

      Does the fact that a prosecuting attorney asks a defendant to supply evidence in support of his alibi imply that the prosecutor believes said evidence actually exists? In the same way, how does the fact that I asked Rebecca to validate her claim with evidence (something Bruce did too, by the way) imply that I believe such evidence exists (which I don’t by the way).?

      This is a technique used in rhetoric every day. It’s actually a way to demonstrate that a claim is false. Again, there must be a miscommunication as I’m sure this isn’t a new concept for you.

      Reply
  7. Rebecca

    Guys, I know that I sometimes can be frustrating to converse with for people who come from more fundamentalist backgrounds whether they are theists or non theists. Our minds just are not wired or reason in the same way. This is not a criticism, and it’s not that I”m trying to be difficult. I just think differently. But, I am doing my best to be sensitive, and not provoke stress or endless argumentation. It’s not my intention to frustrate or disrespect anyone here. And, I’m totally cool with backing away from discussion or agreeing to disagree.

    Again, I”m not saying that Scripture is not important for the faith and practice of the church or that we shouldn’t take it seriously at all. But, how can the Bible rather than the resurrection of Christ be the actual foundation for Christian faith? The NT documents did not spring from thin air. There is an oral tradition and possibly other resource material that is behind the writing of the NT. People were worshipping Jesus and calling Him Lord, proclaiming the resurrection decades before a word of the NT was ever penned.

    Even critical scholars believe that there are actually early creeds embedded in the NT which reflect primitive Christian witness and predate the writing of the NT such as 1Cor. 15:3-8. Paul received this information before he wrote his letter. Another example of an early creed embedded in the NT is Philippians 2:6-11.

    Also, it was the church who first recognized, and then determined the formal canon.

    This notion of the infallibility or the inerrancy of the Bible was not formally articulated in the church as a whole until the time of the reformation. How then should Christian faith be entirely connected to the inerrancy of Scripture? It just doesn’t make sense to me?

    Also, when I mentioned the early fathers, I was thinking in terms of people such as Polycarp, an apostolic father.

    It is recorded by Irenaeus, who heard him speak in his youth, and by Tertullian, that he had been a disciple of John the Apostle. Saint Jerome wrote that Polycarp was a disciple of John and that John had ordained him bishop of Smyrna. I would agree that the Fathers quoted from the Scripture as well. But, I don’t feel that the apostolic father’s whole faith was solely based in the Scripture.

    Pastor Disaster, in my way of thinking the Scripture does not have to inerrant to reveal Christ. I view Scripture like this cracked jar where the light of God’s word shines through it. The gospel accounts contain discrepancies for sure.
    Perhaps some can be resolved, others not. All agree that the NT writers affirm that Jesus rose from the dead, and was seen alive by His followers.

    I want to add to this by saying I feel the doctrine of inerrancy can lead to kind of idolotry of the Bible. People can become hung up on attempting to defend this, and as a corollary get into all kinds of distracting and crazy debates relating to anything from the age of the earth to how Adam and Eve managed to fend off the dinosaurs and saber tooth tiger after being ousted from the Garden of Eden.

    Instead, what Christian believers should be focusing on in my opinion is God’s love expressed in the incarnation, and the resurrection of Christ, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to express God’s Kingdom in the here and now.

    Ok, I’ve done my best here, Pastor Disaster. I suppose this is a discussion that could go on for a long time. But, I’ll give you the last word. 🙂 If you’re interested in hearing more about this perspective, Dr. John Polkinghorne is an Anglican theologican and also a scientist who has done quite a bit of work around the purpose of Scripture, the Bible and science, that kind of thing. You might find him interesting.

    Thanks for the discussion.
    Becky.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      The resurrection is the foundation of Christianity, but where is this teaching found? The Bible. No Bible, no resurrection.

      All Christians believe in some form of inerrancy — truths they believe come from God or are absolutely true (say your beliefs about Jesus). In your comments you make objective theological claims you believe are factual and true. Where do those claims come from from? The Bible. You make wild claims about oral traditions in the early decades after Christ’s death. What evidence do you have for those claims? While certainly early Christians shared stories about Jesus, these stories quickly became codified in the Bible, 20-50 years after Jesus’ death. It is silly to argue, then, that the Bible is not that which Christian belief is derived.

      There can be no historic/orthodox Christianity without the Bible. Of course, you have any kind of Christianity you want. That’s America at its best. I told you years ago that you are like a person painting a paint-by-number picture. Instead of following the number-color order, you just paint wherever you want to paint, using whatever colors fits your fancy. When you are finished, you proudly hold it up and say,look, Christianity!

      Reply
    2. Pastor Disaster

      Hi again Rebecca! I’m not frustrated or feeling disrespected. Believe me, I’ve been a full-time pastor for the last decade. I don’t think there’s a thing you could say to make me feel thusly.

      Regarding your reply, my first impression is: “Oy Vey, Rebecca, really!?” Here’s why I say that: we cannot have an intelligible dialogue if you jump from pillar to post and from topic to topic.

      I hesitate to even address anything you’ve written because all of it only further diverts from my original line of questions. But, quite honestly, your “arguments” are just so nonsensical they’re hard to ignore!

      1) Why do you bring up inerrancy again? It’s a nonissue, as I pointed out in my last post.

      2) Why do you quote the Bible? That’s a red herring… a circular argument. It’s meaningless until you’ve demonstrated the bible’s validity (which has not been done to date and I’m quite sure you won’t be the first to do so).

      3) Also, every church “father” you’ve mentioned lived and wrote AFTER the NT. How does this validate your claim of an “apostolic witness” that predates the Bible? All this does is muddy the water of our discussion. (And your rhetorical question about whether or not I think the NT “came from thin air” is no kind of evidence ).

      I don’t like being this pointed, but given your background coupled with the way you avoided my questions I see no alternative. Kindly answer the 2 very simple, very specific questions I asked or I cannot spend any more time on this topic.

      Reply
  8. Rebecca

    If I’m hearing you rightly, it seems like you’re saying that the Bible is the main means of revealing Christ, Christianity and the afterlife while at the same time admitting that it’s an errant, fallible book just as limited and imperfect, in fact, as were the ancient people through whom it came.

    Have I gotten this right? If so, given these things, do you believe it’s reasonable and even perhaps justified for many to reject the Bible’s monumental claims about Christ, Christianity and the afterlife………….

    Hi, Pastor Disaster, this is the question, I was trying to give a response to. My answer is for my self, no. I’ve tried to explain more of my thinking, why, in other posts. However, given my experience with brothers and sisters who are fundamentalist believers, and in exploring and being open to their thinking, Yes, for them it is understandable to me.

    Your second question related to the “apostolic witness..” I had referred to an early Christian creed actually embedded into the text of the NT which most critical scholars believe actually predates Paul’s letter to the Corinthian. 1Cor. 15:1-11. This is just one example.

    Here, I can see how we might get bogged down in semantics. You could argue that this is still contained in the Scripture, and so I have fallen into circular reasoning. I, on the other hand, reason that this text actually predates the Scripture, and could also be considered an independent witness.

    I also want to be fair, and share that not all of the critical scholars agree such as Dr. Robert Price who I believe doesn’t feel that Jesus existed at all. I personally feel that he may have an “axe to grind.” 🙂 To share a really balanced perspective I’ve shared a link from Wikipedia to expand concerning this. (Hopefully this will go through.) 🙂

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_Corinthians_15

    What I think, though, Pastor Disaster, is that we don’t have to worry or stress into this. I think, you know, “Be chill.”
    We can be open.

    Regardless of whether someone is a theist or a non theist, this Scripture says it all for me. Romans 8.

    For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Pax.

    Reply
    1. Zoe

      For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

      Except for hell. Think that separates us from the love of God.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Or if we are not one of the elect, or if we belong to the wrong church, or if we have the wrong beliefs, or if we commit the unpardonable sin, etc. Besides, since the Bible is not inspired or inerrant,these words are just Paul’s opinion. How did Paul know what he was saying was true? Did God whisper in his ear? So many questions ? That’s sarcasm, by the way. ?

        Reply
  9. Rebecca

    Hi, Zoe and Bruce, my grandbabies have all descended for the weekend. If I make it through, I’ll be back Monday…Teasing. I love having them… 🙂

    But, what of universal reconciliation?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      That’s made up theology, crafted by those who are queasy with what the Bible says about God’s judgment, hell, and the lake of fire. Let me ask what I have repeatedly asked you over the years: please list the Bible verses you think are authoritative and binding. No duck and run Grace/Becky/Rebecca. Let’s reduce the discussion to the truths you consider nonnegotiable. If none of them are, then why bother with theological discussions? Becky, unlike readers who don’t know you and are trying to engage you in thoughtful discussion, I know what lurks behind the curtain. You owe it to these people to put all your cards on the table. I’m not angry, nor am I upset. That said, I don’t want people to spend hours engaging you in discussion only to have you,in the end, pull a Lucy.

      As far as universal reconciliation…if you believe this, why bother with Jesus and religion? Why bother with anything religious? If in the end, all will be well, I cannot think of one reason to give your god or any other god a second thought.

      And which God will everyone be reconciled to? I assume your God — the triune God of Christianity. Or will we be reconciled with all the gods of human creation?

      Reply
      1. Rebecca

        Bruce, for me the ” incarnation,” that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself so that we could be made like Him in love, and share in the life of God is really the essential and center of Christian faith. The resurrection of Jesus is connected with that. In terms of my own faith, this would be non- negotiable, so to speak.

        I think that Jesus is the authority and lens through which we should receive and interpret the Scripture. Jesus is God’s last and final word to us.

        He taught love of both neighbor and caring for even enemies. So, when I read portions of Scripture which speak of things like wanton genocide, and even putting babies and children to the sword, I don’t feel that this reflects the word of God.

        I don’t have an entire list of Scripture, Bruce, that I would consider authoritative in my head. I could list individual verses of Scripture, but even that would fill a book, and would be beyond the scope of any blog post.

        The question would be easy for a fundamentalist Christian. They could just say, “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it for me.” But, for me it is much more complex, and not as simple. That’s not me trying to be difficult, or ducking and running. I’m just being honest. I would be happy if you or anyone wanted to discuss various passages of the Bible, and to share our different perspectives and opinions. Sometimes my views can change or have changed. I’m certainly not a theologian or a Bible scholar. And, to be honest, I don’t think any of us can claim to know every answer. Even the apostle Paul shared, “For now we see through a glass darkly. We know in part…” not fully.

        You had also asked.

        As far as universal reconciliation…if you believe this, why bother with Jesus and religion? Why bother with anything religious? If in the end, all will be well, I cannot think of one reason to give your god or any other god a second thought.

        For me, I did not come to faith in Christ out of any fear of judgment or Hell at all. It was all about a response to the love of God, a desire to know Him and truth more fully. I think knowing more of God, and being found in Christ is it’s own reward. I can honestly say that through the years, I feel that my Christian faith has helped to make me a more open and compassionate person. I think it has deepened and enhanced my desire to participate in God’s kingdom to make a positive difference in the world. I think it has added another rich layer to the meaning and purpose of life. I also find tremendous encouragement in knowing the universe ultimately arcs toward justice, and even in the face of death to know the hope of the resurrection.

        I have always valued the sacredness of human life. But, knowing that we are also created in the image and likeness of God, and not the result of totally random processes has added a deeper foundation to this conviction. (I’m a theistic evolutionist.)

        For me, my faith in Christ does not require a rejection of science, or to check my mind at the church door. I can also be open to other cultures and insights from other perspectives since I think that ultimately all truth is God’s truth, I don’t live in fear of the world or that I could embrace a wrong opinion. It’s freeing.

        Part of the reason I hang out and share on this blog is of course to share my own perspective, but also to learn, and to consider the views of others. (Even jello that can’t be nailed to the wall has a purpose and value.) 🙂

        I don’t think people need to move within the same paradigm or always have to agree to benefit from friendship and dialogue. I appreciate your work, Bruce, and regardless of the outcome of this conversation, I wish you every blessing and encouragement.

        Reply
    2. Zoe

      So have you embraced universal reconciliation now? Last we spoke (not so long ago) it was a consideration for you, not me. So your question is directed at you.

      I still don’t see how what you preach/advocate/evangelize for resembling universal reconciliation.

      Reply
  10. Brian

    Over the span of my life, beginning before I was a gleam in somebody’s eye, my historical family made much of Jesus and a magic he performed, especially letting his dad kill him and then popping back to life. I am afraid it all amounts to persistent story-telling over the years and hearing men like Paul go on about his visions and his own magic gifts and redemption just makes me tired. If Jesus died and came back to life, then Marjoe Gortner for him, I say, but what on earth would somebody want to follow him around for unless they really get a kick from the show he puts on. It’s fine and dilly-dandy that folks get all warm with the idea of being loved straight to heaven. I get all tingly about trees in certain light and the wind and fond memories of sweet times in life. The trouble I have is the preaching it out and being bashed by the enlightened, promised eternal damnation and so forth. Rebecca believes because it works for her. It worked for many of us at least periodically during our lives. For me, I prefer this life, hard as it can be, giggly and tortured, simply biped and not magically driven. The idea that the Bible is inerrant simply offends common sense, as does Paul speaking of women, for instance, as if he had a clue beyond his hallucinations on the road. Go ahead and believe but ask your churches to pay taxes for education and health care, unlock the doors and let the homeless get cover, do something, do anything at all that can actually be seen as altruism and not stealing from others to maintain your stained glass fantasies.

    Reply
  11. Rebecca

    The trouble I have is the preaching it out and being bashed by the enlightened, promised eternal damnation and so forth

    Brian, I have trouble with this too. And, I agree that churches should be called out and held accountable if they are not using their resources wisely to serve the poor and needy or are engaged in any corrupt and immoral practices.

    I think this is part of what Bruce is doing here. I appreciate it, and think it reflects the work of the Kingdom of God.

    Reply
  12. TW

    “Evangelicals fondle and caress your emotions, hoping that you will spread your legs wide so they can penetrate you with their slick gospel presentations.”

    OMFG!!! I laughed my ass off at that one!! Bruce, I bow in humbleness to your word-smithery!!! That was just too good!!! “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

    Reply

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